Placed a large Verdant 5g sample order this week. Here’s my first pick of the pack, the Spring 2018 Laoshan Gan Zao Ye. It was my first time with jujube leaf, so I followed Verdant’s guideline for gongfu as closely as possible. 5g, 150mL glass gaiwan, 175F, initial steep of 8s + 4s each steep. No rinse, as the leaves are very delicate and I didn’t want to extract any flavors. Messy gaiwan session – strainer is necessary.
Dry leaf looks like a Laoshan green but finer with lots of thin stems present. It smells upfront like potato sticks snacks and deeper like a dark-roasted barley used for brewing stouts.
First steep, the wet leaf smells like russet potato skins and roasted broccoli. It produces a mostly clear orange-yellow liquor that smells like potato sticks, brownies, edamame and maybe a light sweet cream. The taste is very sweet but light and fruity, not as thick of a sweetness as chewing on fresh sugarcane. It’s almost like a very watered down vanilla sweetened oat milk mixed with those potato sticks.
Second steep turned cloudy and a darker yellow-orange-brown. The wet leaf smells more steamed broccoli than roasted, but both plus baked potato skins. The liquor smells like potato sticks with nectar and light cocoa, light red fruit and vanillin. Tastes lightly sour going in the mouth but the potato sticks take over followed by that sweetness and fruitiness. There is a persistent aftertaste of potato sticks, a lingering sweetness and very light drying quality. Bottom of the glass smells like cocoa and sugarcane.
Third steep retains the qualities of the second with a clearer cup and the addition of edamame in taste. Feels a tad thicker in the mouth. Lingering sweetness is building.
Fourth steep clears more and lightens in color to a golden yellow. I used my fingers to wipe the clinging leaves off the lid of the gaiwan and my fingers are a little sticky. Taste is much the same with the potato sticks turning more into baked potato skins.
Subsequent steeps get lighter in liquor color, aroma, taste and texture, though the lingering sweetness continues to build. I feel very warm and perhaps more relaxed, who knows. I ate some of these very delicate leaves. They chew like overcooked greens, feel fuzzy and a little gritty and taste like edamame. My tongue feels tingly on the sides now.
Color me surprised, this herbal tea is pleasant and is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I think the qualities of the brew make it suitable for a good nightcap, especially in the cold months but I don’t think I could handle the persistent sweetness every night. It could fit into my herbal rotation a few nights per week. Seems like it would do well in a teaball western style but I like the slight change in flavors when brewed in a gaiwan. I look forward to ordering a bigger bag of this.
Flavors: Broccoli, Cocoa, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Nectar, Oats, Pleasantly Sour, Potato, Red Fruits, Roasted Barley, Soybean, Sugarcane, Vanilla